The trial of Serbia’s notorious drug lord Sreten “Joca Amsterdam” Jocic for the 2008 murders of the Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic and his colleague Niko Franic restarted Thursday in Belgrade. The court approved a request from Jocic’s defense for a retrial because of a relevant change in the Serbian criminal procedure law introduced in January.
The start of the new trial was delayed twice, in February and March, because Jocic’s defense was not prepared, and because a member of the judge’s committee had to be replaced due to death in the family.
According to the new criminal procedure law, in cases of organized crime and war crimes the public prosecutor is responsible for the pre-trial proceedings, deciding whether to pursue charges or not, gathering the evidence to indict a defendant, and negotiating plea bargains. These responsibilities previously rested with the court.
The new law also allows the defense to introduce new evidence in favor of the defendant during the trial. The law can be applied to trials which are already underway.
Jocic was arrested in Belgrade in 2009 on suspicion that he organized the murder of Ivo Pukanic. Along with several members from the Serbian part of his group, Jocic went on trial for the murder in April 2010. He was also convicted to 15 years in prison for the 1995 murder of the Serbian gangster Goran Marjanovic.
Croatia recently upheld sentences against six members of Jocic’s group who were involved in Pukanic’s murder.
Also on trial in Belgrade for the murder are Zeljko Milovanovic and Milenko Kuzmanovic, members of Jocic’s organized crime group. Croatian court sentenced Milovanovic in absentia to 40 years in prison for the murders of Pukanic and Franic.